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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer


Irish goodbye

I don’t like graduations. I prefer not to say goodbye. What can I give you as we’re parting that will make it any easier? If I had it my way, I’d quietly recede from campus without any fanfare. 

Unsurprisingly, I’m a big fan of the Irish goodbye. I won’t delude myself that I’ve left any kind of unspoken legacy here, but I do hope that my actions speak for themselves. If those I love don’t know how much they mean to me by now, is there any use tacking on an Observer column?

I am writing one anyway because Johnny Nolan, a fictional character from “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” keeps pestering me. The drunken Irish singer gives a model farewell. He dies of alcoholism before his daughter Francie graduates 8th grade. He departs the world without saying goodbye, but he leaves one breadcrumb. Even the sloppy singing waiter, a man who never could provide for his family, made his love known before he died.

After graduation, Francie resigns to a quiet bitterness, reluctant to say goodbye and ready to move on. Then, unexpectedly, a bouquet of two dozen dark red roses breaks her protest against affection. 

“For Francie on graduation day. Love from Papa.”

She sobs. The tears only multiply when she learns her father set aside the money and wrote the card a year ago, asking someone to remember to give them Francie.

“Cry loud and hard,” Aunt Sissy tells Francie, “and hurry up.” 

I suppose that’s my advice to fellow seniors. Cry loud and hard and hurry up. We have good things to share with the world, and there’s no time to mope. I think that’s the wisdom Sissy knew.

And if drunken Johnny can leave a bouquet for graduation, maybe I, too, can say goodbye and leave a few flowers for those people who have made the last four years lovely. If friends were like flowers, I’d have the most beautiful garden. To all those who shared their lives with me here, you are wonderful.

To those who taught me to live and breathe in the spirit of The Observer — Alysa, Adri, Issy, Manni, Isa, Claire, Ryan, Christina, Gabby, Andrew, Gray, Aynslee, Annelise and our entire Ed Board, thank you for inspiring me and sharing your friendship. For everyone at The Observer, lilacs upon lilacs, fragrant as the bushes outside South Dining Hall.

To my parents, thank you is not enough. For my mom: a bursting bouquet of trilliums and irises too. For my dad: tiger lilies.

For Ryan and Drew, a pair of playful foxglove stalks.

For Grandma Peg and Pap, shamrock. Thank you for sharing your love of St. Patrick’s Day and for always rooting for me.

For Nona and Papa, azalea. Thanks for letting me pick them when I was young and for teaching me about beauty.

For Sofie, abundant cornflowers, sparkling like royalty with their purple-blue petals. For Morgan, crocuses. For Eve, violets. For Megan, daffodils. For Caroline, daisies, probably pink. For Annie, orange blossoms. For Bri, tulips. For Emma, magnolias.

For Josh and Brendan and Cole, joyful sunflowers.

For Britton, columbine — because it thrives on cliffs. We found some on a field trip once, believe it or not.

For Sofia, begonias. (Sorry, you can’t get rid of me kid.)

For Gus, Old Forest lilies, the ones Tom Bombadil tends.

There are far too many people to name in this column. Countless club leaders, hall staff, poetry night regulars, professors and amazing people who I’ve been blessed to know. But this goodbye is already hard enough. For those named only in my heart, forget-me-knots. Thank you for being tender, strong and true. And no, I still won’t say it.

Maggie is a senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan graduating with a degree in finance and a minor in journalism. After graduation, she’ll pursue a career in business journalism and spend the summer interning at Bloomberg News. You can contact Maggie at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.